This week on the B movie docket is Darkman
B movies are the glue stuck in between all the other genres, oftentimes refusing to conform to any particular genre presets. Some but not all of the hallmarks of a B movie include scripts that read like they were written by a room full of eighth-graders, poor visual effects, cringe-inducing dialogue, low budget production design, and zany plot contrivances. You’re aware of the hallmarks, right? B-movies often reek of amateur flair. Thought you were about to watch a great white shark hunted in dramatic fashion like only Steven Spielberg can deliver? Nope, this is Sharknado.
Why do we love B movies? I think B movies are comforting. You know what you’re about to watch is bad. If you’re fortunate it may be so bad that it’s good. You’ll often scratch your head trying to work out the plot. Out of the many good films you’ve seen, I bet you can talk with more vigor about the worst ones you’ve seen. They’re unforgettable. There’s something comforting about that I think. Besides they’ve been around just as long as the movie industry.
Believe it or not, chances are there’s a B movie for you. So I compiled a list of 50 B movies you must see before you die. No decade is off-limits. No rating is too taboo. For the next 49 weeks, I will introduce and recommend a B movie for your viewing pleasure. Yes, these are exciting times indeed my fanatical friends.
WEEK 46 – Darkman (1990)
This week’s movie is a classic, early 90’s superhero film by director Sam Raimi. You know the very same Raimi responsible for the phrase “boomstick”. Well, this early 90’s superhero movie is a quintessential B movie. There’s blood, guts, memorable characters, and Liam Neeson.
Darkman is proof that Liam Neeson is best when seeking revenge. Not in real life of course. But in movies. This Hollywood star brings something unique to a scorned man seeking revenge. Here’s the synopsis – When thugs employed by a crime boss lead a vicious assault on Dr. Peyton Wilder (Liam Neeson), leaving him literally and psychologically scarred, an emergency procedure allows him to survive. Upon his recovery, Wilder can find solace only by returning to his scientific work developing synthetic skin and seeking revenge against the crime boss. He assumes a phantom avenger persona called Darkman, who, with malleable facial qualities, is able to infiltrate and sow terror in the criminal community.
And boy does Liam Neeson sow terror. He engages the criminals with unmatched zeal. I think Batman would be proud. There is one scene in which Darkman drops from a rooftop that gave me goosebumps. Darkman does not mess around.
The movie starts out with a criminal deal gone wrong. The deal goes sour. A man’s peg leg turns into a machine gun. Cars burst from shipping containers accompanied by gun-wielding goons riding shotgun. It ends with an introduction to the villain’s macabre hobby of collecting the severed fingers of his victims. Director Sam Rami’s creativity leaps from the screen.
It does not take long before the film’s hero, Neeson is introduced to the finger collecting bad guy. Unfortunately, they interrupt his lab work growing fake human skin. Think the doppelganger masks IMF utilizes to dupe bad guys. But imagine Neeson wearing the face of bad guys to dupe them into killing one another. He wreaks havoc on their plans.
A GROUNDED HERO
Superheroes usually have some alter identity. Batman has Bruce Wayne. Superman has Clark Kent. Wonder Woman as Diana Prince and so on. Their nonheroic alter egos may live with tragedies but otherwise, they can live normal lives. Darkman’s alter identity is a psychotic burn victim. His downtime is spent half ruminating on creating a skin that does not deteriorate within a few hours so he can marry his girlfriend, played by Frances McDormand. And the other half he is just ruminating on his recent adoption of ultra-violence in his quest for vengeance.
I have covered many films on this list. Some have been directed by notable directors. But none are shot as good as Darkman. There is a kinetic energy to the camerawork. Also present in Evil Dead and Army of Darkness. The scenes are infinitely creative. Especially when one considers the film was made in 1990. It’s even more charming that Rami created Darkman after failing to secure rights both to Batman and The Shadow. Sadly, we never got to see how Rami would have directed Batman. Thankfully, we did get to see Rami’s pleasant take on the friendly neighborhood Spiderman.
In a film littered with so many great scenes, choosing a standout is difficult. I do not want to spoil anything. But I need to tell you about the Durant versus Darkman Durant scene. If you have not seen Darkman, this scene is certainly worth taking time out to watch it. And if you have seen Darkman maybe it is a good time to revisit it. Because watching Darkman impersonate a crime lord and then masquerade around attempting to cripple his crime syndicate all in the name of vengeance is quite amusing. It is about as entertaining as seeing Sean Archer and Castor Troy go head-to-head in Face/Off.